Final Deployment of a Summer-Long Commitment to Send More Than 600 SUNY and CUNY Students and Volunteers to Clean, Restore, and Rebuild Homes with Non-Profit Partners
Governor Andrew M. Cuomo today announced the fifth and final major deployment of students and volunteers to Puerto Rico as part of the summer-long NY Stands with Puerto Rico Recovery and Rebuilding Initiative. During this summer, New York State mobilized more than 500 SUNY and CUNY student volunteers, as well as more than 120 skilled labor volunteers, to help with recovery and rebuilding efforts.

“While the federal government neglects the people of Puerto Rico, New York continues to stand with our brothers and sisters and help rebuild the island’s communities stronger than ever before,” Governor Cuomo said. “This fifth deployment of volunteers may wrap up our summer-long commitment to help support and rebuild the island, but our work does not end here. New York will continue to walk with our fellow Americans every step of the way on their long path to full recovery.”

“Hundreds of volunteers have dedicated their time to help families in Puerto Rico recover from the natural disaster that devastated their communities,” said Lieutenant Governor Kathy Hochul.”While the federal government fails to help with rebuilding efforts, New York is standing up and helping our brothers and sisters when they need it most. We remain committed to helping our fellow Americans build back better and ensure their safety from future disasters.”

Volunteers will join non-profit organizations to clean, restore, and rebuild homes. To date, volunteers have logged in more than 33,000 hours to help homeowners in communities that are still recovering from Hurricanes Irma and Maria.

New York State’s volunteers will continue to work in tandem with the non-profit rebuilding organizations All Hands and Hearts, Heart 9/11, and NECHAMA. Student volunteers deploy for two weeks and earn college credits. Volunteers with the New York Building and Construction Trades have deployed in one to two-week waves throughout the summer. UNICEF USA has dedicated $500,000 in funding to aid this initiative.

The deployment follows the second phase of the initiative in which the Governor deployed a Tactical Assessment Team to create a widespread rebuilding plan for the island. The Assessment Team’s findings have guided the deployment throughout the summer. Four prior deployments have each included approximately 100 SUNY and CUNY students and volunteers, and nearly 20 skilled labor volunteers.

SUNY Chancellor Kristina M. Johnson said, “Having recently returned from Puerto Rico, I was able to experience firsthand the life-changing, positive, impact of the work that is being completed on the island as a result of Governor Cuomo’s initiative. Thank you to all the SUNY and CUNY students and volunteers for their energy and enthusiasm to serve the people of Puerto Rico, and my best wishes to our students who land today ready to help rebuild.”

Interim CUNY Chancellor Vita C. Rabinowitz said, “The ‘NY Stands with Puerto Rico’ initiative has been a wonderful success, and CUNY is proud to be a part of it. Many of our students have personal connections to Puerto Rico, and traveling there to help rebuild has been extraordinarily meaningful. All of our student volunteers have worked hard and with great empathy, and, like the groups who went earlier in the summer, the students who are flying down this week will not only have a life-changing experience, but they will also make a real difference in the lives of people who need their help.”

Cuomo continues to build on New York State’s efforts to aid Puerto Rican families in New York who had to leave their homes after Hurricane Maria devastated the island. The Governor directed the Office of Temporary and Disability Assistance to establish a $1 million program to provide robust case management services to displaced Puerto Ricans and directed the DOL to provide up to $10 million in job training and placement.

In June, the Governor announced that the SUNY and CUNY Boards of Trustees would extend in-state tuition for students displaced by Hurricanes Irma and Maria. The extension of the authorization allows students from Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands to attend state-operated colleges for the 2018-19 academic year at a lower cost to ease the burden as their families recover from the destruction following these natural disasters. In the spring 2018 semester, approximately 50 displaced students took advantage of the in-state tuition rate at SUNY colleges and 200 displaced students at CUNY colleges.

Since Hurricane Maria’s landfall in September 2017, Governor Cuomo has traveled to Puerto Rico five times and directs critical resources to communities in need. In the immediate aftermath, he established the Empire State Relief and Recovery Effort, ultimately distributing at least 4,400 pallets of supplies collected from 13 donations sites across the state. He also deployed more than 1,000 personnel, including hundreds of utility workers and power experts to help with power restoration and grid stabilization.

Cuomo and the New York Congressional Delegation continue to advocate for Puerto Rico to receive essential federal assistance. In December, Governor Cuomo and Puerto Rico Governor Ricardo Rosselló, along with members of the New York Congressional Delegation, issued a Build Back Better Assessment Report. The report identified specific sectors needing investments, including housing, power grid and resiliency, agriculture, and others. Together with $487 million for public safety and first response aid and $9 billion for long-term recovery management, the total funding need is $94.4 billion.

For more information about the recovery and relief efforts visit the Governor’s Empire State Relief and Recovery Effort for Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands webpage.

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